noguera disparities - June 5, 2000 The Nation. 29...

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June 5, 2000 The Nation. 29 CAUSES OF THE RACIAL ACHIEVEMENT GAP ALL DERIVE FROM UNEQUAL TREATMENT. Disparities Demystified O nce again national attention is focused on the racial gap in academic achievement, thanks in part to the high-stakes tests now in vogue across the nation. The appearance of this racial gap is by no means a new de- velopment. For years, African-American, Latino and Native American students have lagged far behind their white and Asian peers on most standardized tests. The gap is also present in graduation and dropout rates, grades and most other measures of student performance. The con- sistency of such patterns in almost every school and district in the country has the effect of reinforcing well-established assump- tions regarding the relationship between race, academic ability and intelligence. More often than not, explanations for the achievement gap focus on deficiencies among parents and students. Dysfunctional families, lazy and unmotivated students, and the “culture of pov- erty” in inner-city neighborhoods are all frequently cited as causes of the gap. Left overlooked and unaddressed are the conditions under which children are educated and the quality of schools they attend. Since popular explanations often determine the types of remedies that are pursued, it is not surprising that the renewed attention directed toward the racial gap in academic achieve- ment has not led to calls to address the real problem: inequality in education. First, it’s important to recognize that achieve- ment test results reflect more than just racial disparities. An analysis of test scores also re- veals a close correspondence between the scores children obtain and broader patterns of social inequality. With few exceptions, children of the affluent outperform children of the poor. Explaining why poor children of color per- form comparatively less well in school is rel- atively easy: Consistently, such children are educated in schools that are woefully inad- equate on most measures of quality and funding. This is particu- larly true in economically depressed urban areas, where bad schools are just one of many obstacles with which poor people must contend. Parents often perceive inner-city public schools as hopeless and unresponsive to their needs, prompting those who can to opt for private schools. Many have also actively sought alternatives through vouchers and various privatization schemes. Yet what makes the racial gap uniquely paradoxical is the fact that the benefits typically associated with middle-class status don’t accrue to African-American and, in many cases, Latino students. In many school districts, children of color from middle- class, college-educated families lag significantly behind white students in most achievement measures. The performance of these relatively privileged students has brought renewed attention to the relationship between race and educational performance. This is the issue that has prompted fifteen racially integrated,
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This note was uploaded on 03/28/2011 for the course ED 315 taught by Professor Triller during the Spring '11 term at Grand Valley State University.

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noguera disparities - June 5, 2000 The Nation. 29...

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